South African SMEs are enthusiastically embracing cloud-based applications such as Dropbox and Google Apps. Though the market is becoming more sophisticated, there are still a few myths that prevail about the risks and benefits of cloud computing, says Ivan Epstein, CEO of Sage Australia, Asia, Middle East and Africa. “The cloud promises to make the use of business IT resources online and on-demand as easy as services such as Gmail and Dropbox,” says Epstein. “It’s about having a flexible new way of buying technology applications and services you need. Many of the fears that surround the cloud are now out of date.”
Myth 1: It’s not secure
Many SMEs worry that their data will not be safe with a cloud software provider. But a credible vendor will host and manage your application and data in a top-tier data centre underpinned by world-class technology, says Epstein. Such a facility will feature the latest and best information and physical security, he says. “These facilities will be as secure as those where your bank keeps your confidential financial information locked up. No SME can afford to spend as much on security as a good cloud service provider does.”
Myth 2: An ordinary mobile broadband or ADSL line isn’t good enough
Many SMEs are already using cloud services on standard ADSL and mobile broadband connections with no problem. The user experience is more than acceptable for most services including accounting and payroll software. “You don’t need a fast, uncapped fibre line to use cloud apps,” he says. “Your ADSL line will do just fine and you won’t burn through huge amounts of bandwidth.”
Myth 3: You have to commit fully to the cloud or stay off it
Many SMEs think that taking advantage of services in the cloud means throwing out their existing applications and committing completely to a cloud provider. That’s not true, says Epstein, since you can opt for “connected services” that allow you to move over to the cloud at your own pace. “Connected services offer hooks into the cloud so you can benefit from working online while still using a PC software package,” says Epstein. “For example, a desktop accounting solution might allow you to access a range of digital transaction and payment solutions from within the package’s interface. We believe the future is in the cloud, but not everyone is ready to move completely over to using their software online.”
Myth 4: It’s just about cost-savings
The cloud can help you to save money on buying servers and installing software. It can also allow you to pay for your software per month rather than committing a big sum upfront to buy a software package. Those are important benefits, but they are not as significant as the flexibility that cloud gives your business, he adds.
“The cloud turns IT consumed into a utility, transforming fixed costs into variable costs,” Epstein says. “It allows you to buy applications such as accounting not as a software suite but as a collection of services. You can buy what you need and increase your use of these services with a few clicks when you need to.” And the cloud makes information and business services available everywhere your employees have Internet access, making your workforce faster, more responsive and better informed.
“Judging from the demand for our online solutions, the cloud is gathering traction in South Africa’s SME sector. Sage has built on this solid South African foundation, and applied global insights gleaned from the Sage businesses in Europe and the US, to bring Sage Business Cloud Accounting to South Africa, he adds.